Cricket is a game of many cultures. You know what many cultures have in common? That’s right, beards. So many cricketers have beards that you can probably categorize them as their own players. In fact, that’s what we’re doing today. Beards of course, come and go (most of the time) but if these players had a beard at some point in their career, their eligible for this.
Perhaps the first great cricketer, and definitely the first great bearded one. Legend has it that old WG was the second most famous face in Victorian England (after Queen Victoria herself) and without a doubt, had the most recognizable batch of facial hair on his face. His on field numbers stack up too.
He scored England’s first test hundred, the first player to score a hundred first class hundreds, almost 3000 First Class victims at a little over 18 and the beard of the 19th century.
The beard came late in his career but he had it, so he can belong here. Anwar is a legend in Pakistani cricket circles, full of grace and beauty in his shots.
The third most successful player to start his career with a pair (though he might soon be fourth if Elgar continues to be good), owner of over 4000 test runs at 45.5, almost 9000 ODI runs at 39 and the highest score in ODIs until it was equalled 12 years later and surpassed 7 months after that. It was something to remember while it lasted though, and few who were there will ever forget it.
The big beard came later but Vettori is a Kiwi legend regardless. More test wickets than all but Hadlee, the second and third best match figures by a Kiwi, one of only two New Zealanders with more than one ten-wicket-match, more tests than all comers from the region, 32 games as captain with 6 wins, more ODI wickets than all others from the north or south island, a healthy economy rate of 4.12, and an integral part in the run to the final, where his frugal bowling after Boult’s and Southee’s early strikes kept New Zealand in control on their dream run to the final.
Perhaps the best ever beard from Birmingham, Moeen is classy with the bat and useful at times with the ball. His 6 wickets against India at Southampton was probably the best spell of bowling by a long beardman since the days of WG Grace. 5 hundreds at 35, all quite good. One in a vain effort to save the Leeds test in what was only his second test. His second one was his highest test score, 155* two years later, this time at Durham. Three more came against Pakistan and in India later in the year.
He’s been excellent in ODIs as an opener, with 2 hundreds in that position. One of the only positives in those wretched few months ahead of and during the World Cup. Pushed down to 7 as the New England revolution came along and hasn’t scored much since, as he hasn’t been allowed to play his natural game that low down. His bowling has been respectable, if not menacing, and he’s still arguably England’s best spinner at the moment, but things might be slipping a bit for him. But if the runs and wickets keep coming, then he should be a part of the England set up for time to come. And I haven’t even mentioned that large, luscious beard.
The beard is new, only coming after his Hajj trip, but it was present for his greatest moment: the series draw in England. It was there for the Lords hundred, the push ups, the celebration at Lords, getting the test mace after victory at the Oval. Of course, there’s more to Misbah’s story, (which you can read here: )but the beard was there for those crowning moments, maybe it’s a good luck charm.
Imran, Imran, Imran. Another more recent member of the beard club, he’s been incredible with or without it. A product of the Pakistani system, being a part of Pakistan through all the age groups, he moved to South Africa because of his love for a woman. In the time between the move from Pakistan to South Africa, he had played for Pakistan youth age groups, 4 English counties, 7 domestic Pakistan teams and an IPL side.
At 31, he gained South African citizenship and was immediately brought into the side. It was readily apparent that he was a Pakistani product, from his fielding to his fitness to his sole focus and bowling (as a result, his batting was woeful), his passion, basically everything short of the Pakistan shirt. But boy oh boy, his bowling was something special. His variations and excellent leg breaks meant that he was a force to be reckoned with in limited overs, but he could never find the consistency in his line and length in the longer formats to be a perpetual threat.
He could thrill in spells, but there were times (see, Adelaide 2012) where he was too loose and easy to play. But those variations which were his downfall at test level were his greatest asset in the shorter formats, in which he just might be the best spinner or leggie to play this decade.
Imran Tahir was South Africa’s leading bowler and the leading spinner of the 2015 World Cup, South Africa’s best bowler of the 2014 and 2016 WT20s, the fastest South African to 100 ODI wickets (only Mitchell Starc, Saqlain, Shane Bond and Brett Lee have reached the mark quicker), at the time of writing, a bowling average of 23.4 and Economy rate of 4.7 ODIs and 15.4 and 6.5 in T20Is, the best bowling figures by a South African bowler in ODIs (only 8 men have taken better ones), consistently the best celebrator around and a well rounded beard for good measure. Tahir is always a joy to watch, whether it’s his bowling, celebrations or passion, and he rarely fails to deliver.
Another elegant beardy, quite a prolific run getter too. Yousuf didn’t start as a Muslim, but he did start with a beard. Few will describe Yousuf as anything but classy, and that class brought runs too. The third most amount of test centuries among Pakistanis, the third highest average (minimum 1000 runs) among his countrymen and a record breaking 2006, where he made almost 1800 runs from 11 games at just under 100, breaking the 30 year record set by Viv Richards.
His ODI record is excellent for someone who played in the late 90s and early 2000s. Only one Pakistani has scored more ODI runs than him, only 2 of his countrymen with over 1000 ODI runs have have made their runs at a higher average and only one has made more 100s than him and a beard to remember.
His tremendous girth and downright pitiful running and fitness might be what he’s most remembered for but that’s a grave injustice to his talents. He had some power and a lot of grace. He may not look very graceful when running, but that’s most of his shots look.
He was instrumental in Pakistan’s run to the 92 World Cup, where a clean shaven 22 year old belted a quickfire 50 in the semi final as New Zealand’s dream run came crashing down around them. He was the first stable captain for Pakistan since Wasim Akram, made the second highest test score by a Pakistani, and among Pakistanis has scored the third most test runs, second most test hundreds, 4th highest test average, second most test centuries, the only Pakistani with over 10000 ODI runs, 4th most ODI hundreds, an endearing charm and relatability that makes you think that you too can be a great cricketer and some of the most comedic moments on the cricket field. There will never quite be another player like Inzi.
Viv is king. There’s little more to say. He was a few eras ahead of everyone in the world. He dispatched every bowler all around the park with equal distaste and no discrimination. Didn’t matter if you were Indian, Pakistani, Australian or English, you were outta here the second you came up to bowl.
You wouldn’t celebrate the wicket of Greenidge or Haynes, you’d be quaking in your boots the second you dismissed them because you knew what was coming next. Viv would walk out, swagger in his step, “here to kick ass and chew bubble gum” to quote Duke Nukem, and is perhaps the coolest person to ever play the game.
That small beard would be something to laugh at if worn by someone else but Richards just looked even cooler with it. His numbers stack up to the legendary reputation he has: a test average of over 50, more test runs than all but 2 West Indians and those ODI numbers. More runs that all but 4 West Indians in the format, an average of 47 and a strike rate of 90, both higher than anyone from that era.
To put those numbers into perspective, the average among all other players was 28 at 69. His numbers actually stack up favorably to modern day players. In fact, only 3 players average over 45 and have a strike rate of more than 90, Richards, Kohli and de Villiers. Richards was a trailblazer in ODIs, being the fastest to every multiple of 1000 runs from 1000 to 6000 runs except for 2000. He’s won 2 world cups and reached the final of a third.
His average when not captain was an incredible 58. He was the undisputed king of ODIs for over 20 years. There was a lot to his test career too. An unbeaten 192 in only his second game, against some of the best spinners in the world, 291 against England, the joint highest score by a West Indian who didn’t make a triple century. It came in that summer, which ended a brutal series for England where Richards simply annihilated them. It was also a part of his golden year, a then record 1710 runs, a record which would stand for 30 years.
Viv was an incredible fielder in an era where “athletes” like Geoffrey Boycott were everywhere in cricket.Whether he was brutalizing bowlers to all parts, or chewing gum with unmatched swagger in the field, his opponents trembled with fear whenever the ball went near him.
Can it really be anyone else? Combining beard with performances, Amla tops the lot. The Mighty Hash was, until October 2016, one of only two players with a 50+ average in tests and ODIs. Since then, Kohli joined him and AB de Villiers in that club, and then Amla left when his test average dipped below 50 for the first time in 4 years. But nonetheless, Amla’s sheer class is always a reason for optimism about his career.
There are few better sights in world cricket than seeing Amla in full flow, and his performances are outstanding to boot. The fastest to every multiple of 1000 runs from 2000 to 6000, on track to take the records for 7000 and 8000 too, an average of 51 and strike rate of just above 89 in the ODI format. An average of just under 50 (and for so long, above 50), 25 hundreds, 7 of which are over 150, the only triple century by a South African, the only triple by a visiting batsman at the Oval, some incredible innings like the aforementioned triple and an unbeaten 253 at Nagpur in 2010 among others.
Add to that his calming influence on the field and his majestic beard and you have an absolute legend. Everyone loves this Hash, and there’s no reason not to.